21 December 2016

Review: Volkswagen Amarok

Pickups are a bit like the 46A Dublin Bus, writes Brian Byrne, you wait for ages for one, and then a few come along.

So, following the recent outing with the Toyota Hilux, and an earlier one with the SsangYong Korando Sport, I’ve just finished time with the latest update o5 the Volkswagen Amarok.

The vehicle has been around since 2010, and for the 2017 model year there have been some minor external changes to bring the look into line with the rest of VW’s range. But the big change is in the engine bay, and I’ll get back to that in a while.

It’s a big car. More than 5m in length (there’s a 5.9m version in some markets, with an extended bed), and imposingly tall, the review Double Cab variant offers plenty of metal visibility. In a practical style, though, so nobody is going to buy this one for cool looks. And that’s OK, because the Amarok is a true working mid-sized ‘truck’ as they put it in the US. Though it’s not available there, ironically because of an early 60s ‘Chicken Tax’ imposed in a chicken trade war between the US and Europe.

(I’ll write about that some other time.)

There’s no question about the build quality. Walk around it, open and close the doors, crash the tailgate down and up, check the load bed. All as solid as they come, and suggesting very clearly that the Amarok will ride out any really tough stuff you might throw it on.

Inside there’s also solid quality, if a little on the dull side in terms of the dashboard and instrumentation style. But all there to do a job, carry operator and any passengers in relative comfort and certain safety, and with adequate room. There are places where vehicles like this are both for daytime work and off-duty use as family cars, notably South America and South Africa, and these are no-compromise situations.

Volkswagen Ireland weren’t compromising either with the specification of the review car, full Highline grade and a few extras, notably the 14-way adjustable electric and leather, heated, front seats, which cool the wallet by over €3,600 on their own. That did help to make the car particularly comfortable.

The powertrain was also upper-crust, with a brand new 3.0 V6 diesel which has replaced the previous 2.0 BiTurbo diesel four that was the most powerful. The new engine is available, depending on market, in three outputs between 163-224hp. For our purposes it was the upper of those variants, with an 8-speed automatic. Referencing 23pc more power than that previous high-end 2.0, with a whopping 550Nm of torque and the ability to tow 3,500kg, it’s arguable that there’s nothing in the competition here to touch it over a number of areas. Oh, and all that’s done with less emissions and more frugal fuel consumption than before.

As it happened, most of my needs were ambling around the country roads between the main towns in my home area, while I had the car. But when I needed to accelerate, there’s as some awesome grunt available, so I’m confident enough to say that this particular version is probably a very able beast in any circumstances. At a refinement level, the 8-speed auto operated smoothly, but I’d like a little more sound insulation to muffle the turbo whine of the engine.

You know, this isn’t a country where pickups like Amarok are needed for use by ordinary folk, definitely more for construction and agricultural people. But in my experience, they have changed substantially in the last decade, from rocky and fidgety on ordinary roads to very useable as cars. There’s also something about being able to see beyond the busy traffic, and the knowledge that if you have to navigate a rugged mountain lane, it’ll take you there, and back, safely.

I’m getting quite fond of the format …

Anyhow, while the 2.0 Amarok started the year with an entry price of €37,470, you’ll be digging a bit deeper to drive home the one I had, at €58,548. Included was the metal paint at €862, the black A-Bar at €550, and black side bar and step at €513. as well as those seats. The Road Tax is €333.